Sunday, February 25, 2007

Flying "Billie" Walsh

There was a Miss Wilma Walsh, better known to her friends as ‘Billie’ who, back in 1929, was a teacher at Belleville High School. But Billie was different than most other teachers, Billie had earned her pilots license. That was no small thing in those pioneer days of flying. Her ‘home base’ as a pilot was old Roosevelt Field in Garden City, Long Island. It was there where she got her flight training and with 60 hours of solo time to her credit, she received her ‘wings’, a coveted pilot’s license.

Roosevelt Airfield was named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt's son, Quentin Roosevelt, who was killed in air combat during World War I. It was the takeoff point for many flights that were important in the history of aviation. Charles Lindbergh's 1927 solo transatlantic flight originated at Roosevelt Field. It was also used by other pioneering aviators, including Amelia Earhart and Wiley Post. Miss Walsh was in good company. At its peak in the 1930s, Roosevelt Field was America’s busiest civilian airfield.

Billie was as proficient at flying amphibian aircraft as she was at piloting land based aircraft. To her credit, she was the first pilot to successfully land a sea plane at the marine base at Newark Metropolitan Airport.

While vacationing in Europe in the summer of ’29, this resident of Van Houten Street, regarded as a very pretty aviatrix, flew as a passenger on such pioneer airlines as Imperial English Airways and Royal Dutch Airways. Her favorite personal aircraft was the high-powered, sporty ‘Bird CK’, an open cockpit biplane.

Here’s a 1929 photo of Miss Walsh with her own plane

Here’s a modern photo of a fully restored biplane, of the kind she piloted, a Bird CK


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Hey !

Hey ! So many young people and not a few older folks have adopted this as an every day greeting when they mean ‘hello’. For this I commend them. It brings us back, full circle, to the old language of this place. The old language is not English. No, it’s not even Dutch as some who know their town’s history might have guessed since the village was first settled by the Dutch. Indeed, the old language is ten times older than that, it is Lenape. The Lenni Lenape people were here since a time long out of memory and beyond the reach of history. They were here for even longer that some of us old history buffs first thought. We knew there was a race of wooly mammoth hunters who frequented the area as the ice age receded but we thought those hunters preceded the Lenape. However, certain findings among the archaeological artifacts have shown us that the Lenape WERE the mammoth hunters. They were here in what we call our town even before most of our own civilizations ever came into existence. So, isn’t it proper that we should honor these ‘grandfather people’, as they called themselves, by saying ‘Hey!’ when we meet. What does ‘Hey’ mean, you may ask. In Lenape, it means ‘hello’. My goodness, isn’t that ironic.

Want to have a little fun ? In this multi-cultural society we live in where we don’t really understand each other anyway, next time you stop in at Dunkin Donuts try saying this : “mili kapi” (pronounce it -MAY-lee KUP-ee).
See what you get ! By the way, it means, “give me coffee”. Or, if it’s lunchtime, you might say to your companions of the moment, “mitsitam” (may SEE tum). Which, of course, means “Let’s eat”. They will be dazzled by your wealth of knowledge, or maybe ask you what you’ve been smoking. Should you come upon a fellow who appears to be experiencing an evil moment you may say to him, “kulamulsi huch?” (koo la MA see huch), and if he doesn’t take a swing at you, you may have time to explain that it means “Are you o.k.?”

It is such a very old language, this Jersey-speak is, this language of the Lenape. You will be doing history and future generations a great favor if you remember just two or three phrases of this ancient tongue, just to help keep it alive. It would be a pity if a language handed down since the ice age is forgotten. And besides, it’s the old language of your hometown.

Well, for now, let me just say, Lapìch knewel !